23 November 2010

From Moyock to Portsmouth

We had a gorgeous day for traveling.  The first bit was a little windy but after we made it out of the Currituck Sound, things calmed down.  This is starting to be a familiar sight - leaving the colony - although it's never been quite this pretty.

Once underway, we discovered we'd had a prowler aboard.  And yes, I'm completely comfortable with showing the whole internet how dirty the dodger is.

After navigating some "submerged danger!" we found the fall colors to be quite lovely.

 It was my first time going through locks.  Kyle wasn't nearly as excited about it as I was.  I was pretty disappointed by the whole thing, actually.

Tall tugboat!  Just doesn't seem ocean-safe...

The most exciting thing that happened all trip was a railroad bridge that held us up for a while.  We were concerned we wouldn't make it to the Jordan Bridge until 3:30 and then we'd be stuck there til 5:30 because it doesn't open for rush hour.  Apparently our fears were unfounded (and our guide books out of date), because this is the remains of the Jordan Bridge.

Suddenly, Norfolk!  And Portsmouth!  And our new marina.  That is a naval ship in the dry dock - it is so skinny and streamlined.

And that completes the last few miles of the ICW that I had never been on.  We still have a few miles left to cover in Florida, but we'll save that for another trip :)

16 November 2010

Some Easy Favorites

Since we're getting ready for a move, I wanted to prepare some food that would be really easy - heat'n'eat meals.  So I spent just about all of yesterday cooking.

The first thing I made was stromboli.  It isn't really stromboli, I just keep calling it that.  I think it might better fit the definition of a calzone.  Basically, a hot pocket without the sauce (and with REAL food inside...).  I got a box of bread mix because it usually works out better than bread from scratch.  For the filling, I cooked up some chicken, green peppers, jalapenos, mushrooms and mozzarella.  One box yielded eight stromboli/calzone buddies, which is quite a stretch.  I think they were mostly filling, which is tastier anyway :)

I always have some leftover filling, and I decided to make a pot of white chicken chili with it.  I cooked up more chicken and sauteed the peppers with some scallions.  I used the pressure cooker to cook some Great Northern beans.  Throw it all in a large pot, add a couple cups of chicken broth, simmer forever.  What else did I put in it...a handful of mozzarella, and a spice packet I bought (I could have done the spices better myself though - I won't use one of those again). 

Also, in between easy meals I used the last of the pecans - the last of them?  How did we go through them so quickly?  They are actually a really great snack, just sit down with a bowl of pecans and a nutcracker.  Perfect for late at night when I got home from work, hadn't eaten dinner, was really hungry but didn't want a full meal.  Anyway, I used the last of the pecans to make Pecan Sandies!  This is one of the weirdest cookie recipes I've ever followed.  The main ingredient is butter, which meant that you refrigerate the dough to make a brick of butter, then break off pieces to bake.  And the baking time is very long - I needed 20 min for bitesized cookies.

Toss in powdered sugar for a perfect cookie.  They really are "the best I've ever had!" as the recipe quotes.

So finally, I got done with all my cooking and thought a bowl of soup would be the perfect lunch.  I was somewhat surprised to find that I wasn't even hungry.  I guess I'd been "sampling" my work a little more often than I thought.  I still had a small bowl, and it was delicious.  Kyle took a stromboli buddy to work today, so I'll get the reviews on that one tonight.

Stromboli and white chicken chili are from my go-to recipes - the things I would make in college so I didn't have to cook again that week.  Also in that group is manicotti, fajitas, regular chili and fried potatoes.  Between those recipes, I don't think I really ate much else in college, except for when I occasioned to buy some bread, lettuce and lunchmeat.

Good luck to all my hunters out there!  Someone shoot me a deer, please, I'm running low on venison.  And stay safe!

15 November 2010

We're Moving!

Kyle and I rented a slip in Portsmouth, VA.  We actually signed the lease for the beginning of November, but this week is the first time the Southern Cross has been floating all month.  This means that Kyle is skipping work on Wednesday (with his boss's permission, of course) and we'll be taking a boat trip up those last few miles of the ICW.

Stay tuned because big things are happening :)

12 November 2010

Southern Adventure Leads to Amazing Dinner

This just in:  pecan-encrusted fish are the hot new food.  And I am loving this new trend, especially with my latest acquisition (pecans!).  So I spent my yesterday browsing the internets for the most intriguing pecan-encrusted salmon yesterday.  A huge thanks to Brad for the salmon - those fillets were so big that one easily fed both Kyle and me.

And here it is, the most intriguing recipe I found:

  • 8 (4 oz) salmon fillets
  • 2 c. pecans
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  1. Put the pecans in a food processor and chop until fine.
  2. Add garlic, salt and cayenne pepper to food processor and process just till mixed well.
  3. Brush the salmon fillets with olive oil and roll in pecan mixture.
  4. Heat a large non-stick fry pan and lightly saute the salmon on one side until browned.
  5. Turn and saute until done (approximately 5 to 6 minutes per side). 
 Yes, you read that correctly.  The pecans are mixed with garlic and cayenne pepper!  Note:  fresh pecans are pretty difficult to chop with a rolling pin.  They were so moist and oily that I basically made a bunch of tiny pecan pancakes.  But after that they crumbled, so it turned out okay.  In addition, I also baked my salmon because I just didn't see pan-frying turning out that well because the pecans weren't really sticking to the fish.

Also, since I only had two fillets (actually, two halves of one monster fillet), I had to cut the recipe in quarters.  Except for the cayenne pepper, which I doubled, because I love cayenne pepper.  The salmon ended up spicy and delicious.  The pecans added more texture than flavor, but the flavor that they added wasn't out of place or weird.  Also, I served my salmon with asiago dill potatoes, which are always a huge hit.  Love dill.  Love asiago.

Look at how spoiled I am.  I didn't even have to do dishes afterward.  Hey Kyle, if you don't want me to post weird pictures of you, then don't make weird faces at the camera :)


10 November 2010

Northern Girl Goes on Southern Adventure

At Christmas-time, Gram and Grandpa always provided a bowl full of various nuts to entertain the kids.  It sounds pretty corny now, but a bunch of us kids would sit in front of the fireplace and crack nuts of all kinds.  Brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds galore!  My favorite were always the hazelnuts.  We'd eat them until the bowl was empty, and then ask Gram to refill it.

Now that I'm in the South (ish), there is a whole new world of produce opening up to me.  And with PickYourOwn.org, fresh from the garden is just a drive away.  Back when I was in the market for blueberries and blackberries, I made a phone call to a pecan farm (knowing nothing about when pecans were in season).  I was advised to call back in November, sometime after the first frost.  On Tuesday, Kyle had to scrape his windows before going to work.  That's my cue!

I was the only one at the farm this morning, but the woman whose backyard I was in told me exactly what to do.  The nuts have just started falling off the tree.  She said if I were looking for 20 pounds of pecans I should come back after a big wind storm.  Who on earth gets 20 pounds of pecans?  Anyway, she also told me that the black ones had fallen off before they were ripe and I should avoid them.  Go for the lovely light brown ones!  Most of them were out of the husks, so the whole thing was like a giant Easter egg hunt.  Joyous.

At first I was going along a path like a little kid, grabbing every pecan I could find on my way to the Tree That Had Not Been Picked Yet.  And once I got to that tree...I'd say I resembled more of a squirrel.  There were pecans everywhere!  In no time at all I had much more than what I'd planned on picking.  I was gathering handfuls and bringing them back to my grocery bag.

For some reason, I'd expected the trees to look a lot like fruit trees - small and gathered in a grove.  But this really was just a backyard full of very large, normal looking trees.  I keep comparing them to the black walnuts we played with when we were little (they turned our hands black and made Mom mad :P ).  These were much nicer than that, although I did try to scrape the husk off a green one and now my thumb is a little black so it looks like they are pretty similar.

As you can see, this tree is still loaded with green pecans.  The proprietor did tell me that I could continue picking until Christmas, though, so they must have a pretty long season to ripen and fall off the tree.

Unlike blueberries and blackberries, you can't taste-test the pecans as you pick them, which was pretty disappointing.  When I got done picking, I made sure to ask to borrow a nutcracker so I could taste what I'd gathered.  I was surprised to see the nutmeat was a gorgeous golden color with pale insides.  They taste as good as they look - I've eaten a handful already.  Being labor intensive makes them the perfect snack because then it's hard to eat too many at once.

And there you have it!  Four pounds of pecans for $10 - what a steal.  I really want to see how much a pound of shelled pecans compares to the same de-shelled.  I don't think the bathroom scale can handle such subtleties of weight though.